European court orders Italy to pay Amanda Knox damages for failure to provide lawyer and translator
Posted On July 12, 2020
Europe’s top human rights court has ordered Italy to pay €18,400 (£16,000) to Amanda Knox after ruling that she was denied adequate legal representation when she was questioned over the murder of British student Meredith Kercher over a decade ago.
Knox accused Italian police of slapping her around the head, threatening her verbally and not giving her access to a lawyer or professional interpreter when she was interrogated in the days after Kercher was killed in the town of Perugia, Umbria, in November 2007.
In a long and tortuous process, Knox and her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted, then acquitted, then reconvicted then definitively acquitted by Italy’s highest court of the sexual assault and murder of Kercher, from Coulsdon, London.
In a statement Knox, 31, who lives in Seattle, welcomed the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
“I am grateful for their wisdom in acknowledging the reality of false confessions, and the need to reform police interrogation methods.”
She said she had volunteered to help police in Perugia “in any way I could” after Kercher was found in a pool of blood, with her throat slit, in a cottage she shared with Knox and two Italian women.
“But they weren’t interested in my help. They were determined to break me. I was interrogated for 53 hours over five days, without a lawyer, in a language I understood maybe as well as a ten-year-old.
“When I told the police I had no idea who had killed Meredith, I was slapped in the back of the head and told to ‘Remember!’”
Italian police and prosecutors subjected her to “psychological torture and physical abuse while under interrogation,” she said.
Knox served four years in prison after her initial conviction for participating in the killing of Kercher, before being released on appeal and then definitively acquitted in 2015.
During her questioning in November 2007, she said she was not given a professional interpreter, but a police employee who acted instead as a "mediator" who encouraged her to "imagine hypothetical scenarios" about the night of the murder.
She said she was placed under extreme psychological duress which resulted in her wrongly accusing the Congolese owner of the pub where she worked of murdering Kercher.
Patrick Lumumba was arrested but later released without charge after being found to have had nothing to do with the crime.
Knox was convicted by an Italian court of malicious accusation after making the false claim – a charge which remained even after her definitive acquittal.
In her statement she said: “I know the absolute horror of sitting in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, and I spent years wracked with guilt over those statements I signed in the interrogation room.”
The court said Italian police had improperly denied access to a lawyer and failed to assess the conduct of the interpreter, with the result that they had "compromised the fairness of the proceedings as a whole."
Knox had been sleep deprived and “in an extreme state of shock and confusion” when she was questioned.
She had been “particularly vulnerable – being a foreign young woman, 20 at the time, not having been in Italy for very long and not being fluent in Italian.”
The court noted that a few hours after making her statement, she had retracted all her accusations against Mr Lumumba.
Knox’s rights had been violated because her claims of mistreatment were not investigated, the court ruled.
The panel of seven judges added, however, that they had found no evidence that Knox was subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment during her questioning.
The court ordered the Italian government to pay the American, now a journalist and writer, €10,400 in damages and €8,000 in costs.
The only person to have been convicted for the murder of Kercher is Rudy Guede, a petty criminal and drug dealer from the Ivory Coast who had been adopted by an Italian family in Perugia. He is serving a 16-year sentence.
Knox’s lawyer in Italy, Carlo Della Vedova, said her conviction for murder and sexual assault amounted to “the biggest judicial error by the Italian justice system in the last 50 years.
“This young woman was sent to prison at the age of 20 and came out at the age of 24 – four years of wrongful imprisonment. Strasbourg has confirmed the violation of her fundamental rights.”
But Francesco Maresca, lawyer for the Kerchers, said the family felt “dissatisfaction” with the Strasbourg court’s ruling, along with the outcome of the judicial process in Italy, which had led to the acquittal of Ms Knox and her ex-boyfriend.